10 Steps to Opening Your Own Business

Small Business

Creating the foundation of your next enterprise can be a challenging process. For everything from ideas to permits, it takes a lot to get a new business up and running. At Alpine Bank we would like to help you make your dream a reality, and offer these ten steps to opening your avant-garde operation:

  1. Write a business plan. Creating the sound reasoning behind what you want to do and how you want to do it represents the building blocks to a good business. There are many tutorials to help you develop a plan and to accompany them, we recommend researching information for each section of the document.
  2. Select the best location. Location can make or break a business. In conjunction with your plan’s market research, we suggest scouting out the best potential locations. Adding this element to your proposal can help you create the optimal visualization when describing your concept.
  3. Build a marketing strategy. Great service and great promotion go hand in hand. Unfortunately the old adage, “If you build it they will come,” no longer applies. Now, in order to get clients through the door, you’ll need a structured and continual marketing plan to ensure customers in your area are aware of your business.
  4. Plan your finances. These not only refer to the funds you need to open your business but also the additional costs to help support the initial years of operation. This extra capital will help ensure your business doesn’t topple while building its ongoing customer base.
  5. Meet with a commercial lender. Once you have the core of your business planned and calculated, it’s time to meet with a small business lender to evaluate your risk. He or she may require a percentage down, or that certain criteria are met before loan signing.
  6. Fulfill any requirements. Whether it’s saving additional funds, offering up collateral, or obtaining designated permits, it is best practice to meet and exceed the requirements that your lender has suggested in order to maximize your lending potential.
  7. Close on a business loan. After securing the funds for your business, be certain they’re placed within a business account, instead of a personal one. To help ensure your funds are separated, we also recommend creating an LLC for your business prior to opening.
  8. Purchase or lease the space. Using the money you’ve budgeted, move forward with purchasing or leasing the space for your new enterprise. After space has been secured you’ll need to acquire equipment and supplies from another portion of your predetermined budget.
  9. Structure and hire your team. Another old saying goes, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” This is a great adage to stick by, as more often than not, people are what makes a business successful. Decide your role within the company, and then craft detailed job descriptions for the rest of your potential employees. Start building your team with the best people for the job, and add further help as needed.
  10. Open and continually promote. The big day has arrived and the doors are officially open. Continue to keep them open through constant and innovative marketing efforts. By pushing your products and services to the public you can ensure that they’re aware of your offerings and consider your business a valued option.

We look forward to meeting with you about your next corporate venture. If you have any questions on how to complete the steps above or have additional inquiries on commercial lending, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Fix-Up Your Budget

Budgeting

HGTV’s latest hit show, Fixer Upper, has fans and home buyers looking for new ways to save and restore old homes. While Chip and Joanna have become experts in home renovation, they’re not too shabby when it comes to finances either. Using their home building skills and our banking knowledge we offer these top tips to help fix up your budget in 2017:

 

  • Build a Strong Foundation

Just as a home cannot stand without a solid base, neither can your personal finances. To begin building the foundation to your finances, it is imperative to start a monthly budget. This system can help you organize how much money is coming in and out each and every month, allowing you to allocate funds for both spending and saving.

 

  • Make the Most of the Unexpected

During the course of renovations sometimes things come up! Whether it’s an unknown pipe, water-damaged floors, or a termite torn framework, Chip and Joanna always find a way to overcome a home’s obstacles. In the case of your budget, an emergency savings account can help you cover those unexpected expenses, and give you a hand if times get tough. Stop in Alpine Bank to get started, and open a dedicated savings account for your emergency fund today.

 

  • Have Some Fun with It

Whether its home renovations or budget structuring, it’s important to enjoy what you do! Just as you see Chip adding his humor into his work, there are helpful ways you can find joy in managing your money. Instead of looking at your budget as a limitation, see it as a tool you can utilize when planning your financial strides. If you and your family want to save for your next vacation, commit to depositing a specified dollar each and every month. After six months or more, you and your family could be heading to the beach to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

  • Always Take Free Advice

Chip and Joanna offer endless tips and tricks to their home flipping business. Always full of great ideas and sage advice, these two make a consistent effort to give their viewers a leg up on their next home project. Similarly, our team at Alpine Bank wants to help you work to achieve your next financial goal! Whether it’s saving for your first home, purchasing a new vehicle, or setting a plan for your retirement, we’d love to offer our experience to help make your financial dream a reality.

 

Whether you watch Fixer Upper every week or are just starting this addicting series, we hope you keep your eyes peeled for other great financial tips. You may find more money management advice than you’d think!

Planning Your Spring Garden for the Best Return

Spring ROI

Spring is still just out of sight, but for prospective spring gardeners, the time to start seed germination is almost here! With seeds for some summer produce taking up to three months to prepare for planting, planning ahead of time can truly make or break both personal and commercial growers. Before you start organizing your garden for the season, we offer these helpful tips to help you make the most of your agricultural investment:

Grow Heirloom: Tomatoes are a staple of countless summer gardens, but what will differentiate your juicy produce from other countless selections at the market? Variety! With new strains of tomatoes being discovered each year, blue, striped, and white fruits can offer your family and customers a unique and delicious twist on a summertime classic. The basic large red tomato has an average price point of approximately $3.50 per pound, but smaller heirloom varieties often go for more than $5.00 per pound. With one plant typically producing over 20 pounds of fruit, you could easily make $100 off of one heirloom plant!

Learn to Preserve: Once you’ve harvested the tomatoes grown above, you can continue to tack on the savings by processing those fruits into recipes that can be canned. Packaged goods like salsa and pasta sauce can run about $3.00 a piece, however, you can create a pantry full for the low cost of the plants and reusable mason jars.

Add Some Flavor: Personal herb gardens have continued to grow in popularity over the past several years, and 2017 is no different. With many urban gardeners opting to plant their own seedlings, you’d think the retail need would decrease. However, the opposite may be occurring. With an influx of gardening comes an influx of use. Many home cooks are beginning to learn the benefits of using fresh herbs, and they’re not always cheap. Generally, a small bunch of herbs can run between $1-3. This in mind, most healthy plants are able to produce a consistent amount of bunches throughout the summer, and even into fall. If you have one plant that offers 50 bunches at $2 apiece, that’s a simple $100 earned for just one plant.

With so many incredible plant varieties to choose from, we’re sure your next garden will be a success! Whether you’re planning to sell your crops at the weekend farmer’s market, or stock a pantry your grandmother would be proud of, the practice of gardening has proven to be a money saver for you and your family. If you have any other great gardening tips, be sure to share them with us on Alpine Bank’s Facebook page.

Alpine Bank Participates in Small Business Assistance Workshop for Minority Business Owners

In February 2015, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos hosted Minority Small Business Roundtable discussions in Rockford and Peoria. Our office learned access to capital was a challenge for the minority business communities in both cities. In response, the Congresswoman hosted the Minority Small Business Assistance Workshop in August 2016, and proved to be very beneficial for the Peoria community.

Martesha Brown and Brenten Witherby pose with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

In late 2016, we followed up with small businesses in the Rockford area, and owners reiterated that an event promoting access to capital would be beneficial.

 

In 2015, the Small Business Administration issued over $23 billion in 7(a) Regular SBA loans. The Hispanic/Latino community received only 5% of those funds; the African American community received fewer than 2% of those funds, down from 8% in 2008. Small businesses account for over half of the sales in the United States, and in Illinois, small businesses represent 2.4 million jobs – 46% of the jobs throughout the state. As of 2012, the SBA states that only 36% of businesses are owned by women, and only 10.5% of those businesses have paid employees.

This workshop brought together business owners, lenders from Alpine Bank, Rockford Bank & Trust, Rockford Local Development Corporation, and ACCION, as well as representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), to address access to capital within the minority business community.

The experts on hand highlighted different lending resources available to prospective borrowers as well as the components of a successful loan application. By helping women and minority business owners gain access to the tools and resources they need to grow their businesses, we can help grow our regional economy and build up capital within the community.

For its part, Alpine Bank continues to add resources and team members to assist women and minority business owners. In 2012, Alpine hired experienced not-for-profit SBA and local micro-lender, Brenten Witherby, and quickly regained status as one of the top SBA lenders in the State of Illinois.  Cesar Sanchez, Small Business Development Officer, spends every day searching for ways to make loans more accessible throughout our entire community.  Most recently, Martesha Brown joined the Alpine Bank family as Community Outreach Officer where she is responsible for building awareness, implementing financial literacy programs, and providing opportunities to new and existing customers.

Financial Words of Wisdom and How to Use Them

Financial Quotes

With topics ranging on everything from love to education, the wise words of others seem to provide a perspective in our lives that we may otherwise not consider. To help you achieve your financial aspirations this year, Alpine Bank would like to share some words of encouragement that we hold dear, to help you along the way on your journey to financial success.

“Of this be sure: You do not find the happy life… You make it.” -Thomas S. Monson

An encouraging reminder, this quote tells us that the emergency fund, retirement plan, and vacation fund are all worth the effort. Although the chances of being offered a free all-inclusive vacation to Mexico are slim, WE can make it happen for ourselves and our loved ones.

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” -Weil

This quote can be applied to both personal and business relationships. The more time you invest in a person, the more value they hold. Whether it’s taking the time to answer customer questions, making it to your child’s basketball game, or simply being willing to pick up a phone call from a frazzled friend, giving someone your time is the ultimate connection to others. If you’re looking to improve a relationship, budget, or business, investing your time is the best place to start.

 

“If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.” -Steve Jobs

 

Whether you’re working on restructuring your personal finances or trying to determine your most profitable product, the first step in finding a remedy is identifying the ailment. In the example of a budget, knowing what you’re spending, earning, and saving offers a visual into potential issues, so you can further adjust those efforts into a constructed monthly plan. By speaking with others, and getting all the cards on the table, you can ensure that that problem is first made clear before the appropriate solution is determined.

“Never be afraid to try. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic.” -Unknown

The worst action you can take is no action at all. No matter what challenge you are facing, always remember that the failure to act is the only true defeat. If you’re looking to start saving for retirement, expand your business, or tackle your debt, the first thing you have to do is start. No matter how you start, the biggest obstacle of your task will be committing to your end objective. At Alpine Bank, we want to help you succeed in both your personal and financial life. If you need a helping hand with your next venture, stop by our nearest office, and we’d be happy to lend an ear.

Can You Really Save on Travel: True or False?

Save Money

Checking numerous sites for the best deal can be labor-intensive, and potentially counterproductive. With many American travelers turning to vacation book sites and apps, Alpine Bank is curious if they really save you money. After thorough research, we’ve discovered these four truths to successfully budgeting your next getaway:

TRUE: Travel sites offer money-saving opportunities.

FALSE: The lowest value is found on the hotel’s or airline’s website.

Many travel booking sites offer discounted airfare and accommodation, boasting the same services, only at a fraction of the cost. However, many times these sites merely display the cost an airline or hotel already has on their own site at no additional reduction. Select providers have begun to reduce participation in these travel search engines, and strive to instead offer their continued customers the best value straight from their own corporation.

TRUE: Credit cards are the most secure and affordable payment option while abroad.

FALSE: Airport currency exchange is worth the convenience.  

While there are many different options to exchange currency before your next trip, the safest method of payment during your getaway will still be your credit card. With many options now offering no currency exchange fees, you’re sure to avoid unwanted conversions costs while still protecting your finances. According to both Visa and Mastercard, credit card users are held liable for zero percent of any fraudulent charges. This means that should your credit card information become compromised during your stay, you won’t lose any funds because of it.

TRUE: Traveling outside of the peak seasons offers great savings.

FALSE: The skiing in Colorado is great in June.

While it is true that avoiding the crowds can save you and your family some extra dollars, it may not be worth it if it means decreasing the activities of your trip completely. Instead of limiting your travel timeline, we recommend looking for alternative accommodations such as VRBO, along with creative dining options, to maximize your destination’s budget. These additional savings can help to bring your overall cost down, while still making your dream vacation a reality.

TRUE: You can save a lot of money by using airline miles.

FALSE: Airline credit cards are worth the annual fee for a yearly vacation.

Unless you plan to fly every month, an airline credit card is hardly worth the cost. While these cards offer tempting miles for flights, increasing numbers of travel options are blacked out throughout the year. The annual credit card fee for United, American, and Delta costs approximately $95.00 after your first year of use. While boarding in group one can be a well-enjoyed perk, it doesn’t boast much ROI for fliers who are simply looking to reach their annual destination.

As you begin to plan your next vacation, Alpine Bank looks forward to helping you save the funds to make it happen. Stop in today and learn how to open a designated savings account today!

Student Loan PSA: What Student Debt Really Looks Like

Student Loan PSA

Obtaining your secondary education can be a landmark goal on your journey to success. By opening up opportunities, and enhancing your capabilities, the study of a discipline gives you the skills you need to conquer your future ambitions. More often than not, student loans offer a helpful supplement when financing this experience. However, many students are able to obtain these financial aids without having to budget or offer a credit history, causing a higher likelihood of default among student borrowers. To help avoid this, Alpine Bank suggests answering the following questions before choosing how to pay for your collegiate participation:

What are you starting with?

The first question you should ask yourself is, ‘What money do I have to begin my education?’ If you have applied for and received scholarships, those should first count towards tuition and books. Additionally, if you have any financial support from relatives, these funds may be allocated best at the base of your budget during your college planning. By totaling the sum of these two amounts, you can determine the support outside your own savings that will be contributed towards your future learning efforts. Knowing whether or not this amount will be offered on a recurring basis can help you then decide what financial steps you need to take in order to save, earn, and/or borrow the remaining funds necessary.

How much and how often can you contribute?

After learning your total amount of support, it is now possible to create a plan of action to facilitate the rest. Depending on your length and type of education, your costs may vary drastically. When selecting both a field and institution of study, the factor of price is an important one to consider. By thinking of your education as an investment, you can ensure that you choose both a rewarding and promising career path to help you repay any debt you do incur during this time. To help decrease overall expenditures, many students take on a part-time job to supplement the costs of their education, along with the associated room and board. Utilizing this choice can decrease the overall amount of your anticipated loan, and help you avoid the additional expense of interest.

I need to Find What?! Why You Need a Life and Estate Organizer

Photo of Nicole Fasano, author of blog.

Nicole Fasano, J.D., CTFA, Vice President, Wealth Advisor & Trust Officer

“I need to find what?!” is a question often asked after a loved one’s death. From the typical documents, such as life insurance policies, to the less obvious, such as stopping automatic payments from online banking, there are a lot of papers that must be identified after a death in order to administer an estate. How will your executor or successor trustee know what insurance company or bank you used or who you used as your attorney or accountant? This can become a tangled web of information for your loved ones.

You can make this process easier by creating a Life and Estate Organizer.  A Life and Estate Organizer sets forth all the information your loved ones may need upon your incapacity or death.  Below are a few examples of the information generally put in a Life and Estate Organizer.

Contact Information

There are many people who need to be contacted upon death. Family needs to be contacted to make funeral plans. Your attorney and accountant should know of your death. Your executor or successor trustee will likely need to work with your attorney to administer your estate and your accountant to prepare your final tax returns.  Putting this information in your Life and Estate Organizer lets your executor or successor trustee know who they need to contact for funeral arrangements and further administration.  Make sure you include phone numbers and addresses.

Estate Planning

Do you have a Will?  Do you have a Living Trust?  Who is your attorney?  Where are the original documents? Your executor needs to know that they are the named executor and have a document to prove it. Make sure you have a document stating what estate planning you have, what attorney you used, and where you keep the original documents.

Personal Finance and Assets

It’s also important to document where you bank.  What bank do you have checking and savings accounts with?  What bank holds mortgages, auto or personal loans?  The banks will need to be alerted when there’s a death to stop any potential fraud and receive all of the correct information for your estate. Also, your executor/successor trustee should know where you keep your insurance policies, for your life, home and auto. Original life insurance policies generally have to be turned in to the company upon death so it’s important that your trustee knows where you keep the originals.

Digital Assets

A consideration that is fairly new, and therefore often forgotten, is your digital property. You want to make sure your executor/successor trustee has the websites and your usernames and passwords. You would need this for any sort of digital property, such as, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), Photos (Instagram, Flikr), Online Business (Ebay, Etsy), Book, Music and Movies (iTunes, Amazon) or any other digital assets you may have.

We often forget how much information we have stored mentally. That all goes with us at incapacity and death. At Alpine Trust & Investment Group we provide the necessary resources to create your Life and Estate Organizer, helping you to plan for the future. Although it can be a tough subject to broach, it’s important to understand how important this will be for your loved ones, providing them a little peace of mind and clarity in an otherwise difficult time.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

Best Part Time Jobs for Students

Employement

College is a time period in which you begin to choose your path in life. With decisions ranging from effort in class, extracurricular participation, and money management style, you will find yourself gaining more and more responsibilities each and every day. Continue to build your college experience with a part-time career to help you better manage your money, and support some fun on the weekends!

1. Dental Receptionist: With one of the best hourly wages for college students, this part-time job will help you learn the basics of scheduling and time management while allowing you to maintain flexible hours throughout the school year.

2. Library Assistant: On campus jobs are a great way to reduce transportation costs. Snagging a job at your university library can help you with your classes too! After being trained on all the offerings the library has available, you can have primary access to all the additional resources and study materials – not to mention great pay!
3. Restaurant Staff: Offering flexible hours, and potentially reduced food costs, this is a popular and reliable option for students. Especially useful for those looking to become restaurant managers or chefs, this employment can serve as a great stepping stone to future opportunities.
4. Tutor: Not only as a community service, but also as a career, this valuable job enables students to continue learning outside of their classes, and get paid doing so. By continually explaining processes and concepts to others, you can increase your knowledge on the subjects as well!

5. Bank Teller: Filled with customer interaction, number crunching, and accountability, this position will help teach you all about money management, and the responsibility of being accurate. Not only does this position offer a good wage and flexible hours, but it also boasts an added opportunity to network with impactful members of your community.

6. Bartender: Favored by many students, a position at your favorite college bar can provide flexible hours, socialization, and nightly tips to add to your pay. Remember to choose a bar with high traffic flow, to ensure a steady source of tips, and an increased potential to move up the rankings.

7. Fitness Instructor: Getting paid to work out almost sounds too good to be true! For those select few who have fantastic charisma and a killer routine, this is the perfect employment for you! With many students and community members searching for exciting new workouts, most college campuses are searching for students to fill rotating fitness class roles. Pick and choose the classes you want to teach, and have some fun!

8. Social Media Manager: Now that social media is practically a mandatory part of any business, the need to manage those accounts is climbing faster than ever. Put your online skills to use, and see which local businesses could use your help. This innovative career can be completed from your room, or the storefront, so working for multiple entities could be a great opportunity!

If you’re ready to start searching for your next job, try browsing your college careers page! With campus wide services, there are always opportunities to find employment. At Alpine Bank, we encourage students to learn about how to save and spend their money responsibly, using a monthly budget. If you’re curious on how to set one up for your personal finances, stop in today!

Which Subscription Service is Worth Your Money?

Holiday Shopping

The concept of subscription packages isn’t going away anytime soon! Offering the convenience of shipping, and the added surprise of finding out what’s inside, these clever subscription services keep you wanting more. With so many to choose from, how do you know which box is a worthwhile spend for your family? At Alpine Bank, we’re excited to share our favorite options, and how they can help improve your budget:

Blue Apron: Out of all the make your own meal plans, this one by far stands apart! With plans as low as $8.74 per serving, these step-by-step culinary creations not only help you eat better, but spend better as well! Reduce wasted money and food with their pre-portioned delivery system – and shipping is always free!

Bark Box: This box will have your furry friends waiting for the mailman every month! At $20 a month for a yearlong subscription, these fun-filled packages are stocked with nutritious treats and toys for your pup to enjoy. Check out their BarkShop page too, and see if your dog is a fit perfect for their Destroyer’s Club!

Dollar Shave Club: This popular grooming subscription is the perfect fit for men and women seeking a smooth shave. With options starting as low as $3 a month, this offer makes it simple to always have a fresh blade when you need one. If you do choose to upgrade, your product ships for free! Give it a try for a month, and adjust your shipments as needed, depending on how quickly you use the razors.

Birchbox: A traveling beauty bar for both men and women, this monthly subscription provides samples straight to your door for $10-20 each month. Complete with added membership pricing, and special offers, these little boxes pack a punch! If you discover products you simply cannot live without, simply go to their website, and select the full size version to purchase.

Raw Spice Bar: Eager cooks unite behind this affordable and delicious small batch spice subscription. Each month, they send professional and home cooks alike a mix of three regional spice blends. See how much you can grow your palette for only $8 a month!

Graze: Staying healthy can sometimes feel like a chore, especially while you’re working. Take the struggle out of hunting down those nutritious nibbles, and let graze do the shopping for you. For the low cost of $11.99 a month, you will receive 8 pre chosen snacks delivered straight to your home or office, and shipping is already included!

Gamefly: Video game addicts rejoice! Finally, there is a monthly subscription that allows you to play video games and rent movies at a low monthly cost! Starting at $15.95 you can rent one game each month with the option to return it at any time for a new game to rent. There are no late fees, and you can cancel at any time! Or for only $10 a month, you can live stream games straight to your home, 24/7!

Texture: No more magazine racks to clutter up your home, get the newest and latest news straight on your device with Texture’s digital monthly subscription. Offering the hottest magazines in every industry, this convenient service allows you to read the latest issue without the clutter of pages.

LootCrate: Allow your inner geek to celebrate for these gamer and movie centric crates! At a bargain of only $13.95 a month plus shipping and handling, these bountiful boxes offer one wearable item, a t-shirt, vinyl figure, comic book, household item, and utility item in every shipment! What are you waiting for?

Tasting Room: Nothing says relaxation like a satisfying glass of wine. Enjoy a bottle of your favorite flavors each month, through this interactive monthly tasting subscription. After the initial $9.95 tasting assessment of six personal-sized bottles, user are able to order wines to fit their personal tastes for approximately $15 a bottle.

Whichever box has begun to pique your interest, be sure to evaluate your family’s monthly budget to determine if it’s the perfect match for you.